How a candidate’s looks may be swinging your vote (without you even realising it)



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Compiling images from real American politicians with the help of the Victoria Police Criminal Identification Unit, the authors built six “ideal” candidates to test how attractiveness shifts votes.
Rodrigo Praino, Daniel Stockemer/Social Science Quarterly, Author provided

Rodrigo Praino, Flinders University

If someone asks you why you chose the election candidate you voted for, you will likely have a good answer. Maybe you agree with the candidate’s policy stances. Maybe you support his/her party. Maybe you are tired of the corruption, bad policies, or inaction of the people in power. These are all perfectly acceptable answers. One reason you probably will not mention is that you voted for this person because he or she is good-looking. Certainly not. This is not an acceptable answer.

Yet you probably did.

In a study just published by myself and Daniel Stockemer with the help of Victoria Police in Melbourne, we used data on elections to the US Congress to create the faces of six fictional candidates who were “ideal-looking” in terms of physical appearance. We then used statistical modelling and real election results to simulate what would have happened if the loser of some key races looked like one of our “ideal candidates”, but was otherwise identical to the real losing candidate.

In two-thirds of cases, the loser becomes a winner if he/she simply becomes better-looking. To put it simply, we find that if an election is competitive, candidate attractiveness can actually determine the result.

Research shows that candidate appearance travels across cultures, ignoring even racial and ethnic differences. It appears that there is a fairly standard idea around the world of what is an attractive candidate, and voters everywhere prefer good-looking politicians. Research has shown that beautiful politicians are advantaged in Australia, Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

But the story doesn’t end there. Scholars are still trying to understand all possible ramifications of the relationship between physical attractiveness and electoral success. But we know that ideology, institutions and voter behaviour all play a role in this fascinating relationship.

When it comes to ideology, recent research shows that conservative politicians benefit more from physical attractiveness. In other words, right-wing politicians are better-looking than left-wing politicians and, therefore, benefit more from the “beauty premium” at the ballot box.

In terms of institutions, a study published by Daniel Stockemer and myself last year shows that the electoral system plays a role in whether or not candidate attractiveness matters in elections.

In brief, candidate attractiveness matters in majoritarian electoral systems – that is, systems where voters cast their vote for a specific candidate. The impact of candidate attractiveness fades in list-based proportional systems, where voters are asked to cast a ballot for a political party.

We find no evidence that attractive candidates are placed higher in party lists, which means that political parties and their structures appear to be immune to the appeal of candidate attractiveness. The conclusion is that institutions play an important role in determining whether or not candidate attractiveness affects voters’ decision-making.

Finally, when it comes to voter behaviour, the “beauty premium” doesn’t manifest itself only as extra votes gained at the ballot box. In a study published last May, we found that attractive politicians get a “break” when they are involved in scandals. In particular, voters forgive attractive politicians involved in sex scandals, while politicians involved in financial scandals such as bribery or misappropriation of funds have a harder time at the ballot box after the scandal becomes public. Either way, this shows that voters not only generally vote for the most attractive candidate, but also are more willing to forgive those who look better.

So how about Donald Trump? This question pops up a lot, especially from people arguing that Trump is not the most physically attractive candidate to run for office. If we think hard enough, we can all think of numerous unattractive politicians who have been very successful at the ballot box all over the world. The key to understanding how this works is to focus on information.




Read more:
President Trump will change the United States and the world, but just how remains to be seen


A few years ago, we ran an experiment using thousands of Canadian students at the University of Ottawa as research subjects. We found that if voters have adequate information about the candidates running for office, they tend to cast their ballot based on this information.

If, on the other hand, voters possess little or no information, then the better-looking candidate wins the election. We concluded that, in high-information elections, candidate attractiveness plays a smaller role than in low-information elections. This answers the Donald Trump question, in the sense that American presidential elections are high-information contests and, therefore, voters know more things about the candidates than their physical appearance, and thus vote accordingly.

The problem is that research also shows that voters all over the world have become less and less informed about politics. For instance, Australians seem to be incapable of answering basic questions about Australian politics; American university graduates in the 2000s knew less about politics than high school graduates in the 1950s; and European citizens do worse than chance in answering true-or-false questions about the European Union.




Read more:
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: Australia should stay away from electronic voting


In other words, we should expect that candidate attractiveness will determine more and more electoral outcomes in the near future. Of course, the major issue with people voting for good-looking candidates is that physical appearance is completely devoid of any policy content. Voters have no guarantee whatsoever that they will end up with policies that they agree with and support if they vote for someone just because that person is attractive.

After years engaged in this line of research, I have never met someone who confessed to having voted for someone else because he/she was good-looking. At the same time, I am also convinced that people do exactly that, even if unconsciously.

The only solution to this problem is to educate voters about politics, institutions and current issues.The Conversation

Rodrigo Praino, Senior Lecturer, College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Liberal Julia Banks defects to crossbench as Scott Morrison confirms election in May


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The government has been delivered a fresh major blow with the defection of Victorian backbencher Julia Banks to the crossbench, delivering a swingeing attack on the right of the Liberal party.

In an emotional speech, Banks told parliament she had had time to reflect on “the brutal blow against the leadership, led by members of the reactionary right wing.”

While she pledged to give the government confidence and supply, her defection has highlighted again the deep divisions within the government, and reopened wounds over the August leadership coup that ousted Malcolm Turnbull and saw then-deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop go to the backbench.

It will give even more muscle to the newly-empowered crossbench. It has also increased the chances of Labor mustering the numbers to refer Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court to determine whether he is sitting in parliament in breach of section 44 of the Constitution.

Banks, who spoke at midday, did not inform the party room beforehand, government sources said.

As she was delivering her speech to the House of Representatives, Scott Morrison was holding a news conference at which he announced the budget will be on April 2, and confirmed the election will be in May, the latest the government can run.

In a further sign of disunity, Bishop has undermined the government on the crucial area of energy policy, saying it should do a deal with Labor on a National Energy Guarantee.

The defection of Banks, who at the time of the leadership coup called out bullying within the Liberal party, comes a day after the Coalition formally went into minority government in the House, with the swearing in of independent Kerryn Phelps.




Read more:
View from The Hill: Day One of minority government sees battle over national integrity commission


With the loss of Banks the government has 73 on the floor of the House. This excludes the Speaker, Tony Smith, who has a casting vote. A simple majority is 75, but 76 votes are needed to suspend standing orders. Labor has 69. There will now be seven crossbenchers.

Ever since the coup, it has been thought Banks might jump ship to the crossbench.

Banks, who won the marginal Melbourne seat of Chisholm for the Liberals from Labor in 2016, did not rule out running as an independent at the election, saying she would look at her options in the new year.

Praising Turnbull and Bishop as “visionary inspiring leaders of sensible centrist liberal values with integrity and intellect”, she told the House: “The gift of time in reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership. Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for the individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence.

“Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition, not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability, and disregarding that teamwork and unity delivers success,” she said.

“The aftermath of those dark days in August then acutely laid bare the major parties’ obstructionist and competitive actions and internal games, or political point-scoring, rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.”

Banks said equal representation of men and women in parliament was “an urgent imperative, which will create a culture change.” She called the Liberals’ rejection of quotas “blinkered”.

She said an independent whistleblower system to enable the reporting of misconduct was clearly needed. “Often, when good women call out or are subjected to bad behaviour, the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones.”

Banks said her “sensible centrist values, belief in economic responsibility and focus on always putting the people first and acting in the nation’s interest have not changed.

“The Liberal Party has changed. Largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk about and to themselves rather than listening to the people.”

Banks said the three female independents, Phelps, Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie, “are at the core of what I stand for”.

Her attack comes a day after Senate president Scott Ryan also lashed out at the right, saying Liberal voters who had deserted the party in the Victorian election had sent the party a message. “They don’t want views rammed down their throat, and they don’t want to ram their views down other people’s throat.”




Read more:
Senate president Scott Ryan launches grenade against the right


Bishop has told the Australian Financial Review: “The government needs to consider energy policy through the prism of securing bipartisan agreement with Labor, to establish a long-term, stable regulatory framework that will support private-sector investment in generating capacity.”

Only the NEG could achieve “elusive” bipartisanship, she said.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: Labor’s 55-45% Newspoll lead adds to Liberals’ weekend of woe


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Labor has maintained a 55-45% two-party lead in the latest Newspoll,
in a weekend of woe for the Morrison government, which is trying to
play down the federal contribution to the Victorian Liberal wipeout.

The Coalition’s primary vote fell for the third consecutive
time, to 34%, in a poll that if replicated at an election would see a loss of 21 seats. Labor’s primary vote remained at 40%. One Nation rose 2
points to 8%; the Greens were steady on 9%.

Scott Morrison boosted his lead over Bill Shorten as better PM to 12
points, leading 46-34% compared with 42-36% a fortnight ago. Morrison
has a net positive satisfaction rating of plus one, improving from
minus 8 in the last poll.

The poll will reinforce Coalition gloom after Saturday’s Victorian
election which saw a swing to the Labor government estimated by ABC
election expert Antony Green at around 4% in two-party terms. While an
ALP win was expected, the stunning size of it came as a surprise.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Even assuming the Victoria election was mainly won (or lost) on state
issues, there are clearly federal factors and lessons in this smashing
of the Liberals, which if translated federally would potentially put at risk half a dozen Victorian seats.

As Premier Daniel Andrews said, Victoria is a “progressive” state. It
stands to reason that Liberal infighting and the dumping of Malcolm
Turnbull, the trashing of the National Energy Guarantee and the
talking down of renewables, and the broad rightward lean of the
federal Coalition alienated many middle-of-the-road Liberal voters.

The anecdotal evidence backs the conclusion that Victorians were
sending strong messages to the Liberal party generally, including the
federal party.

But are the federal Liberals willing to hear those message? And anyway,
does Morrison have the capacity to respond to them effectively?

Morrison has so far demonstrated no personal vision for the country,
and his play-for-the-moment tactics are being increasingly seen as
unconvincing.




Read more:
Victorian Labor’s thumping win reveals how out of step with voters Liberals have become


Morrison took the unusual course of not saying anything about Victoria
on Saturday night or Sunday. He will meet the Victorian federal
Liberals on Monday to discuss the outcome.

Ahead of that meeting Treasurer Josh Frydenberg – who is from Victoria and is deputy Liberal leader – played down the federal implications. While conceding “the noise from Canberra certainly didn’t help”, he claimed in an ABC Sunday night interview that the lessons to be learned federally were about grassroots campaigning and the need to rebut “Labor lies”. He would not concede a recalibration of policy was needed.

Some in the right will try to write Victoria off as unrepresentative
of the nation, just as they did Wentworth. This flies in the face of
reality – there were big swings in the eastern suburbs and the sandbelt,
the sort of areas the Liberals would expect to be their middle class strongholds.

The government needs to pitch much more to the centre in policy terms
but it will be hard to do so.

Given its current positioning, how could it sound moderate on energy
and climate policy? It can’t go back to the NEG. It is stuck with its
obsessions about coal and its distrust of, or at least equivocation
about, renewables, as well as its business-bashing threat of
divestitures.

On issues such as coal and climate change, the party’s eyes have been
turned obsessively to Queensland, where there is a raft of marginal
seats, without sufficient regard to those in Victoria and NSW. Even in
relation to Queensland, there has been a failure to adequately
recognise that that state is not monolithic when it comes to issues
and priorities.

The right is unlikely to stop its determined effort to take over the
party, whatever the cost. Indeed some on the right will argue that the Morrison strategy should be to sharpen the policy differences further, rather than looking to the centre.

The right’s mood will be darkened by the Saturday dumping of rightwing senator Jim Molan to an unwinnable position on the NSW Liberal ticket. Molan has pulled out from Monday’s Q&A program; the ABC tweeted that he’d said he could “no longer defend the Liberals”.

As if the Victorian result was not sobering enough, the government
this week begins the final fortnight of parliament for the year in minority
government, with independent Kerryn Phelps sworn in on Monday as
Turnbull’s replacement in Wentworth.

The government wants the focus on national security legislation but
other issues will be political irritants for it.

Labor and crossbenchers are pushing the case for a federal
anti-corruption body – the sort of initiative that would appeal to
voters highly distrustful of politicians.

Crossbenchers Cathy McGowan and Rebekha Sharkie will introduce a
private member’s bill. 34 former judges have signed an open letter
advertisement calling for a national integrity commission.

They said: “Existing federal integrity agencies lack the necessary
jurisdiction, powers and know-how to investigate properly the
impartiality and bona fides of decisions made by, and
conduct of, the federal government and public sector.”

The government is resisting a new body but will need some convincing
alternative response.

The government will also be under pressure over Morrison’s pledge to
legislate to remove the opportunity for religious schools to
discriminate against gay students. Negotiations with the opposition
have been at an impasse, although the government says it still wants
legislation through this fortnight.

In the middle of the fortnight Morrison attends the G20, where he is
expected to have a meeting with Donald Trump. One would assume they
will canvass the Australian government’s consideration of moving our
embassy to Jerusalem, with Trump urging Morrison to go ahead with
the controversial move.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Senate president Scott Ryan launches grenade against the right


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Senate president Scott Ryan has called out the right within the
Liberal party and among commentators, declaring that Liberal voters
“don’t want views rammed down their throats”.

In a trenchant critique of federal influences in the rout of the
Victorian Liberals, Ryan, a former vice-president of the state
division, pointed to the swings in seats “that are the cradle of the
Liberal party”.

They were areas that were in federal seats like Goldstein, Higgins,
Menzies and Kooyong, he told the ABC.

These voters were the “real base of the Liberal party. They sent us a
message,” he said. “They don’t want litmus tests for what it means to be a real Liberal”.

Many Liberal voters were fairly conservative in their own lives,
raising kids, working hard, running small businesses, supporting
strong local communities. “But they’re pretty liberal in their
political outlook. They don’t want views rammed down their throat, and
they don’t want to ram their views down other people’s throat.

“And that has historically been the Liberal way. We’re often
conservative in our disposition – I am – but I’m very liberal in my
political outlook”.

He said part of the problem was “tone” – while Victoria was a state
election some of the noise that came out of Canberra “did strongly
influence the scale of the loss, where it happened”.

Ryan said after the loss of Wentworth some had “tried to dismiss those
voters as not part of real Australia … labelling people, dismissing
them – that’s not the Liberal way.

“I want to cast the net wide in the Menzies and Howard tradition [so]
as to give people a reason to be Liberals, not come up with litmus
tests and say if you don’t hold this view on a social issue, or if you
don’t hold this particular view on climate change or renewable energy,
then somehow you’re not a real Liberal.

“This is not the path to electoral success. And I’m sick of being
lectured to by people who aren’t members of the party, by people who
have never stood on polling booths, about what it means to be a real
Liberal”.

Ryan declined to name names, but his reference to the media was
directed at commentators on Sky in the evening and the Sydney shock
jocks.

Liberal voters wanted the government to focus on their issues and “I
think the federal government is doing that,” he said.

Ryan said that the days before Wentworth “were distracted … talking
about what some people call religious freedom”. In Victoria people
weren’t raising anti-discrimination law with him on polling booths.

“What we need to do is say the Liberal party has people with various
views, and all of those views can be accommodated, and internally the
idea of compromise is actually a good thing”.

Too often compromise was seen as a sell out, he said. But John Howard
and Peter Costello had compromised to achieve historic tax reform;
Peter Reith had compromised with the Australian Democrats to get
industrial relations change.

“This idea – and I think this is another thing that a lot of our
voters are tired of – that somehow to compromise to address a problem,
and move on to one of the other plethora of problems governments need
to address – that is not selling out – that is getting the jobs done”.

Tim Wilson, the member for Goldstein, criticised those who were being
ideological about energy policy.

“If anybody thinks that there’s this great public sentiment out there
that people really deep down hate renewables and they’re hugging
something like coal, I say again — get real,” Wilson told Sky.

He said he had sat on polling booths where “every second person either gave you deadly silence, which is a very cold, deadly silence, or there were people mentioning energy, climate, or the deposing of the prime minister”.

Victorian senator Jane Hume wrote in the Australian Financial Review:
“Our quest should always be to raise the standard of living – whether
through economic policies, energy, health or education. If we allow
good policy to be infiltrated by even the perception of an ideological
crusade, Labor will win the messaging war”.

After the Prime Minister met Victorian Liberal federal MPs on Monday
morning Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who is deputy Liberal leader, said
“We had a good, honest discussion about lessons to be learned from the
state campaign. As a group we will continue to be focused on
delivering for our local communities.”The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coalition pares back losses in late counting, as predicted chaos eventuates in upper house


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original.
AAP/Julian Smith

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

On election night, the ABC had Labor winning 58 of the 88 seats, to 20 for the Coalition. After late counting of pre-poll and postal votes, the ABC now shows Labor has won 52 of the 88 lower house seats, the Coalition 24, two Independents and ten seats are undecided, with 71% of enrolled voters counted.




Read more:
Labor has landslide win in Victoria


Statewide primary votes are currently 42.9% Labor (up 4.8% since the 2014 election), 35.8% Coalition (down 6.3%) and 9.8% Greens (down 1.6%). As much of the Coalition-favouring pre-polls and postals have been counted, I expect the Greens to gain in late counting as left-leaning polling-day absent votes are counted.

In two party Labor vs Coalition terms, The Poll Bludger has Labor winning by 56.0-44.0 in seats that currently have such a count – that is, excluding Labor vs Greens counts in inner city seats, and Coalition vs independents in the regions. In seats with a two party count, the swing to Labor is 5.3%, which would be a 57.3-42.7 thrashing if projected to the whole state.

The Liberals have lost eastern suburbs heartland seats such as Mount Waverley, Burwood, Ringwood and Box Hill to Labor, but they have retained Caulfield and likely Sandringham, which looked likely to be losses earlier in the night. In Hawthorn, the Liberals lead by 53 votes, with many absent votes to come.

While the ABC currently lists Melbourne as in doubt, Greens-favouring absent votes will easily win it for the Greens. Labor leads the Greens by 72 votes in Brunswick, and will probably lose on absent votes. Labor has clearly retained Richmond against the Greens, and will regain Northcote, which they lost at a byelection. In Prahran, whichever of Labor or Greens finishes second will defeat the Liberals on the other’s preferences.

An independent has gained Mildura from the Nationals, and an independent has retained Shepparton. According to analyst Kevin Bonham, independents are some chance in Geelong, Benambra, South-West Coast, Morwell, Melton and Pascoe Vale; in some of these seats, independents are currently third, but could move ahead of a major party, then receive that major party’s preferences. These seats do not yet have a two candidate count against the independent; the ABC is guessing the two candidate result.

Micro parties could win ten upper house seats

The ABC’s upper house calculator currently has Labor winning 19 of the 40 upper house seats, the Coalition ten, the Greens one, and ten from other parties. These others include four Derryn Hinch Justice, two Transport Matters, one Aussie Battler, one Animal Justice, one Liberal Democrat and one Sustainable Australia.




Read more:
Poll wrap: Labor’s worst polls since Turnbull; chaos likely in Victorian upper house


Overall upper house vote shares were 40.8% Labor, 28.2% Coalition, 9.2% Greens, 3.4% Hinch Justice and 0.6% Transport Matters. It is ludicrous that a party with 0.6% of the vote could win one more seat than a party with 9.2%, or that a party with 3.4% could win three more seats than the Greens.

The upper house count is only at 42.5%, while the lower house is at 71.1%. The pre-poll and postal votes that have assisted the Coalition in the lower house have not yet been tallied for the upper house. When they are counted, Labor will drop back and the Coalition will gain.

The below-the-line vote rate increased to about 10% at this election, from 6% in 2014. As the ABC calculator assumes that all upper house house votes are above-the-line ticket votes, errors can occur if the calculator margin at a critical point is close. Bonham thinks the Coalition will do a bit better at the expense of micro parties, but he still thinks there will be at least six micro party members.

If Labor wins 19 upper house seats, they will be in a strong position in the upper house. Since the election was a Labor landslide, they performed well in the upper house. Had Labor done worse, there would have been some incentive for them to attempt to reform group voting tickets, but this is now unlikely to happen.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Victorian Labor’s thumping win reveals how out of step with voters Liberals have become



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A jubilant Daniel Andrews celebrates a resounding win in the Victorian election.
AAP/Daniel Pockett

Paul Strangio, Monash University

The commanding return to office of the Andrews government emphatically reaffirms that Labor is the natural ruling party in Victoria. By the time the state’s next election is due in November 2022, Labor will have presided over Spring Street for three-quarters of the previous four decades.

That ascendancy is replicated in federal election results: the ALP has won the two-party preferred vote in Victoria on 12 of the past 14 occasions. The flipside is that Victoria has become foreign ground for the Liberal Party. It seems almost unimaginable that this was once the state dubbed the “jewel in the Liberal crown”.

If Labor’s re-election consolidates an established trend in Victorian politics, the scale of the victory (it has invited comparisons with the ALP’s Steve “Bracks-slide” of 2002) and the terms on which it has been won are remarkable.




Read more:
Victoria election: the scandals, sloganeering and key issues to watch


From the moment he won office in 2014, Daniel Andrews styled himself as an assertive and activist premier. This has been exemplified by an ambitious infrastructure agenda, but also a willingness to barge his way through controversies unapologetically.

Andrews’ buttoned-up Clark Kent like exterior has also belied an adventurism on social reform highlighted by Victoria becoming the first Australian state to legalise voluntary assisted dying and other initiatives such as embarking on negotiating a treaty with the local Indigenous community.

Lacking the every-man touch of Bracks, Andrews has never seemed especially fussed about courting popularity and has mostly eschewed media contrivances to leaven his image. Neither has he sought to disguise that he is unambiguously a creature of the Labor Party, nor camouflaged his government’s closeness to the trade union movement.

Only last month, Andrews boldly marched at the head of an ACTU-organised rally in support of strengthened industrial rights and improved conditions for workers. On Saturday night, he made a conspicuous point of thanking the labour movement in his victory speech. All of this has inflamed his detractors (not least News Limited’s Herald Sun), yet Andrews has remained defiantly unmoved.

Arguably, there is a risk in this audacity that might grow greater with Andrews emboldened by winning a second term. And there remains a danger that, despite Labor’s expansive infrastructure program, his government will be overwhelmed by Melbourne’s exponential growth and the enormous strains this is placing on services.

For now, though, one cannot deny Andrews’ achievement. Pledged to serve another four years, he is on track to become the state’s second longest-serving Labor premier and he has bequeathed his party a victory so sweeping it should guarantee two further terms.

For the Liberal Party, this is an abject result. It rubs salt into the wounds of the Coalition’s first-term defeat in 2014. Twice in Labor’s era of dominance of the past four decades, the Liberals have squandered office.

A combination of policy inertia and ill-discipline sowed the seeds of the premature fall of the Ted Baillieu-Denis Napthine government in 2014, while in 1999 Jeff Kennett’s tenure was cut short by hubris and insensitivity to rural and regional Victoria that paved the way for an 11-year Labor reign under Bracks and John Brumby.

For the second state election in succession, the Victorian Liberals have also been handicapped by the actions of their federal counterparts. When Victorians voted in 2014, the politically poisonous first budget of Tony Abbott’s government was still exercising their minds, while on this occasion there was the backdrop of the upheaval surrounding Malcolm Turnbull’s deposal as prime minister.

But this result shows the Liberals’ difficulties in Victoria run far deeper to matters of identity and philosophy (and organisation). Though Matthew Guy gestured towards broadening his election pitch through decentralisation policies, everything in the Liberal campaign was ultimately dwarfed by a muscular, conservative law and order agenda.

It was both narrow and discordant in a community of progressive sensibility, and one that is defined by complexity and diversity. It is a community where, for example, there are electorates in which greater than 50% of people were born in non-English speaking countries, electorates where more than 30% of the population are of Muslim faith, and electorates where nearly 50% have no religion. The contemporary Liberal Party appears bereft of a vocabulary to speak to this pluralism.

Liberal leader Matthew Guy concedes defeat on Saturday night.
AAP/David Crosling

This problem of being out of step with the nation’s second largest and fastest growing state besets the Liberal Party federally as well. Yet Scott Morrison and many of his colleagues have shown scant evidence of recognising, let alone addressing, this dilemma.

Instead, they seem intent on appealing to a Queensland-focused “base”. The cost of this hewing to the right and what it potentially augurs for next year’s federal election in Victoria is now plain to see.

In a more immediate sense, there is a serious chance the Morrison government will be further destabilised by the recriminations flowing from this result. It is likely to deepen the divide in Liberal ranks between those who appear hell-bent on remaking the party in their own conservative self-image regardless of electoral consequences and those who understand that this is folly.

Lastly, what of the Greens? Since 2002, the Greens have stalked Labor in its once traditional heartland in Melbourne’s inner city. Buoyed by a heady triumph in the Northcote by-election 12 months ago, the Greens looked forward to this contest convinced they were on an irresistible forward march.




Read more:
The Greens set to be tested on a number of fronts in the Victorian election


That optimism was dented by defeat in the federal byelection in Batman in March. Now, after an unhappy campaign during which the party became mired in controversy over its culture towards women and struggled for traction against a progressive-credentialed government, the Greens have lost ground. Some experienced observers are speculating that we have witnessed “peak Green”.

That is probably premature. Yet, for Labor, the sullying of their tormentor’s image and disruption of their momentum is icing on its glorious election victory cake.The Conversation

Paul Strangio, Associate Professor of Politics, Monash University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Labor has landslide win in Victoria



File 20181124 149332 1oduvea.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
ALP supporters celebrate as early counting shows the Andrews’ government being reelected with an increased majority.
AAP/Julian Smith

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

With 42% of enrolled voters counted in the Victorian election, the ALP has had an emphatic win. So far, the ABC has called 58 of the 88 seats for Labor, just 20 for the Coalition, one Green, two Independents and seven seats are undecided. Projected primary votes are currently 43.7% Labor (up 5.7% since the 2014 election), 34.9% Coalition (down 7.0%) and 10.5% Greens (down 1.0%). These projections are of what the final vote will be.

There was a large amount of pre-poll voting at this election, and perhaps the pre-poll swing to Labor is lower than the election-day swing. Pre-poll votes will be counted later in the night. However, Labor has clearly won a thumping victory.

I believe the Liberals law and order campaign was too right-wing for Victoria. The Liberals suffered large swings in their eastern suburb heartland seats such as Hawthorn, Sandringham and Box Hill. In these seats, voters with high levels of educational attainment would have been angered by the Liberals’ campaign, which could have been perceived as racist.

In the final pre-election Newspoll, Labor led the Liberals by 43-42 on handling the economy, a decline from a 45-37 lead in late October. However, the economy is traditionally a Liberal strength. The Victorian economy is good, and this undoubtedly helped Labor in its rout.

Labor had the advantage of being a first-term government with an unpopular federal Coalition government. The ousting of Malcolm Turnbull would not have gone down well among voters with high levels of educational attainment, and contributed to the swings against the Liberals.

The final four Victorian state polls had Labor’s two party vote between 53% and 54%, which would represent merely a 1 to 2% swing to Labor from the 2014 election. While we will not know the final two party result for at least two weeks, Labor has clearly performed far better than expected. Polls sometimes miss in the direction that surprises commentators.

For example, Trump’s US victory in 2016, the UK’s Brexit referendum in 2016, UK Labour’s forcing the Conservatives into a hung Parliament in 2017, and Emmanuel Macron’s blowout victory over Marine Le Pen in 2017 were all occasions where the polls missed in a way contrary to how conventional wisdom thought.

I will have more details tomorrow on the Victorian election including what happened in the upper house.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Bainimarama wins again in Fiji, helped by muzzling the media, unions and the church



File 20181119 76154 z0hzjq.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Election winner, former coup leader, Josaia Voreq “Frank” Bainimarama, speaking at a climate change conference in Germany in November 2017.
Ronald Wittek/EPA

Dominic O’Sullivan, Charles Sturt University

Former coup leader Josaia Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama has won re-election in Fiji. But he did so in a country where press freedom is severely limited, and authoritarian rule is used to curb dissent – even from the once highly influential Methodist church.

The election, held on November 14, saw fairly weak voter turnout – though its conduct was fair according to an international observer mission co-chaired by Jane Prentice, a federal Government MP from Queensland.

A more complicated story lies behind the Multinational Observer Group’s preliminary view that the election is “on track to reflect the will of the… voters”.




Read more:
Two past coup leaders face off in Fiji election as Australia sharpens its focus on Pacific


Bainimarama seized power in a coup in 2006 before holding an election in 2014. He invited the group to observe to satisfy the international community of Fiji’s return to democratic stability. His Fiji First party will form government after winning 50.02% of the vote.

The Social Democratic Liberal party (SODELPA), led by Sitiveni Rabuka, another former Prime Minister and coup leader, won 39.85% of the vote. The National Federation Party will take the remaining three seats in the 51 member parliament.

Rabuka once characterised democracy as a “foreign flower unsuited to Fijian soil”. The key point here, as I have argued, is that restrictions on free speech means that there is no way of testing popular Fijian opinion.

Former prime minister and coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, who lost the latest election, in a 2006 file photo.
Dean Lewins/AAP

The Multinational Observer Group described the election as only a “step” towards democracy. Four of the opposition parties say the provisional results don’t match what their scrutineers observed. SODELPA argues that the complicated voter registration process meant that 30,000 citizens were turned away from polling stations. They were allegedly told that they were not properly registered. In a strong democracy, the claim would at least be possible to verify.




Read more:
Fiji coup leader gets the democratic approval he wanted


Poor weather, which saw voting suspended and rescheduled at 23 polling stations, undoubtedly played a part, but voter turnout of between 53% and 61% across polling stations is a sign of democracy not working to its potential. The Fijian media is unlikely to analyse voter turnout, nor any aspect of the election’s conduct.

The Fiji Times’ limited and shallow coverage of the election campaign reflects its turbulent relationship with the Media Industry Development Decree and other laws and practices that restrict impartial political journalism.

The Fiji Times no longer leaves blank spaces where banned stories would have been published. However, the newspaper and its editor have been found guilty of contempt of court for publishing an article critical of the judiciary and, while ultimately acquitted, the newspaper was charged with sedition in 2018.




Read more:
Fiji’s media still struggling to regain ‘free and fair’ space


The requirement for journalistic “quality, balance, (and) fair judgement” and penalties for non-compliance are set out in an act of parliament. The act is selectively enforced. The Fiji Sun is polemical and partisan. SODELPAs “false propaganda” is the newspaper’s “analysis”’ of the 10 percentage point drop in support for Fiji First from the 2014 to the 2018 election.

Under normal circumstances, the unprecedented number of government initiatives rolled out across the country in the last four years should have been enough to carry Fiji First to a bigger victory.

There can be no independent scrutiny of the Fiji Sun’s claim that the “abnormal” circumstances of the 2018 campaign included SODELPAs “strong pro-indigenous campaign (being) riddled with lies”.

It is true that the Fijian economy has grown at an annual average of 3.6% over the past five years. It is also true that investment in education, health and transport infrastructure have improved people’s standards of living.

Yet, there are no conventions of caretaker government to moderate the use of incumbency for political gain. The Multinational Observer Group has indicated it is likely to recommend “against government ministers and senior officials conduct(ing) a range of high profile activities, such as concluding commercial contracts, opening buildings and dispensing government grants and funds during the campaign.”

Restrictions on freedom of association have been used against trade unions which object to Bainimarama’s authoritarian style. They have been used against the Methodist Church which preaches a strong indigenous nationalism and has been a key influence in previous election campaigns.

Former Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop, posing with Australian defence force personnel, during a visit to Fiji in 2013.
Rashida Yosufzai/AAP

Bainimarama’s Fiji First’s indigenous policy is based on multiracial equality as a path to the disruption of aristocratic self-interest. It is the only party to have significant multiracial diversity in its parliamentary membership.

SODELPA makes the case for custom and tradition in public life. For a formal political role for the Great Council of Chiefs and a comprehensive review of the 2013 Constitution.

It may have been a free vote. But the conditions for an informed vote – scrutiny and robust debate – were not present. Bainimarama had military support; significant under a constitution that gives the military overarching authority for the “well-being” of Fiji and all its citizens. This perhaps helps explain the argument that: “one reason for the return of elections is that Bainimarama is confident of winning them”.

Bainimarama’s position is secure. Fiji’s political stability is assured – but only for the moment. Democratic institutions are not strong. One cannot be sure that they enjoy durable public support. Fijian politics beyond Bainimarama is uncertain, unpredictable and insecure.The Conversation

Dominic O’Sullivan, Associate Professor of Political Science, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How much will voters pay for an early Christmas? Eight charts that explain Victoria’s transport election


Marion Terrill, Grattan Institute and James Ha, Grattan Institute

The most magical time of the year is upon Victorians: election season. The (taxpayer-funded) gifts promised by the major parties far exceed anything Santa could bring. And the multi-billion-dollar toys on everybody’s wish list? Trains, tracks and roads.

There’s nothing unusual about politicians promising big-ticket items to curry favour with voters, but this election the size of these commitments is astronomical: more than A$170 billion worth of projects are on the table.




Read more:
Infrastructure splurge ignores smarter ways to keep growing cities moving


Grattan Institute has crunched the numbers, investigating the major parties’ transport infrastructure pledges worth more than A$50 million. Although cost is a cause for concern, the recent trend towards first conducting business cases is encouraging.

How did we get here?

Population growth has been a big topic in the lead-up to Saturday’s state election. Politicians often cite it as the cause of ever-worsening congestion, despite evidence that Australia’s cities are actually coping quite well.




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Our fast-growing cities and their people are proving to be remarkably adaptable


It’s often assumed that a city’s transport infrastructure needs to grow at the same rate as population. This misconception allows politicians to promise popular mega-projects in the name of busting congestion.

Labor has the most extensive and expensive suite of projects, at a cost totalling A$95 billion. More than half of that is just one project: a A$50 billion suburban rail loop that rings around Melbourne’s middle suburbs and connects most train lines.

The Coalition’s commitments total $65 billion. The difference in the major party totals is mainly due to the smaller scale of the Coalition’s flagship rail project: a A$19 billion promise to deliver “European-style high-speed rail” to Victoria’s regional cities and towns.

The Greens’ promise with the biggest price tag is the A$23 billion Melbourne Metro 2 project (click map to enlarge).
The Greens Victoria

The Greens have so far committed to projects worth at least A$72 billion. The largest is Melbourne Metro 2 at an estimated A$23 billion.

These promises mean that every party wants the credit, if elected, for being the government that built the largest transport infrastructure project in our nation’s history. The current title holder, WestConnex in Sydney, totals only A$16.8 billion.

Critics might point out that Labor and The Greens have committed only to business cases for the suburban rail loop and Melbourne Metro 2 respectively. But since two-thirds of infrastructure projects announced with a price tag end up being built, voters are right to treat these promises as commitments to the entire project. Unfortunately, there is no election material with the nuanced message: “We support a business case for this project, which we will have rigorously assessed by an independent body, and if the project’s costs outweigh the benefits, we’ll scrap it.”

No matter who wins on Saturday, the full cost of the promised infrastructure won’t be felt immediately. Many of these projects are slated to run over years or decades and will have an impact on several budgets. Voters have the job of deciding not just where they want their money spent, but their children’s money too.

Total spend isn’t the only difference

The major parties don’t tend to agree on much, especially around election time. The value of their unilateral pledges exceeds the value of projects with multi-party support.

The largest promised project to have clear support from all three parties is the airport rail link, estimated at A$13 billion. (The Greens support this project but will not be announcing it as a policy until the business case is complete.)




Read more:
Melbourne Airport is going to be as busy as Heathrow, so why the argument about one train line?


Parties differ in both what they promise and where they want to build it, and the patterns are fairly predictable.

Public transport (particularly heavy rail) is the winner this election, but it’s clear that parties tend to choose projects that fit with their ideology. The Coalition has promised the most for roads. The Greens have focused almost exclusively on public transport.

The Coalition’s projects are skewed towards benefiting regional Victorians. Labor and the Greens have announced projects that focus mainly on Melbourne.

These patterns may be influenced by where the parties’ respective voting bases tend to cluster, but also by the demands of different parts of the state. For instance, congestion may be a less salient issue in the regions, so voters there may prefer health or education investment rather than big-ticket transport infrastructure.

Is all this spending wise?

There is often a mismatch between the total cost of a project and how much a party pledges in an election campaign. The discrepancy is due to three factors:

  • only a business case is promised
  • the state government is expected to bear only part of the cost
  • the party has not made the funding arrangement clear.

An interesting phenomenon this election is the practice of pledging a business case only. At first glance, this appears misleading – voters might be enticed by the prospect of a mega-project, yet the party has to fork out only about 1% of the total cost if it wins.

Ideally, parties would have independently evaluated business cases ready before committing to projects, so voters could rest assured that any promised project is a smart one. This is important because projects announced prematurely tend to have the largest cost overruns. And without doing due diligence, there’s not enough evidence that the initiative will deliver enough benefits to justify its price; voters won’t know whether it’s a good use of taxpayer funds until it’s built and they’re stuck with it.




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Spectacular cost blowouts show need to keep governments honest on transport


So promising a business case is still better than committing to a project without one – or, worse still, committing to a project that clearly does not stack up.

Both Labor and the Coalition are guilty here. Labor has committed to rail duplication between Waurn Ponds and South Geelong, despite Infrastructure Australia – the nation’s independent advisory body – warning that “the costs of the project outweigh its benefits”. And the Coalition has promised to revive the massive East West Link, despite the Victorian Auditor-General’s criticism of the original project: “… the EWL business case did not provide a sound basis for the government’s decision to commit to the investment”.

Of the infrastructure promised this election, only the North East Link has a business case that Infrastructure Australia has assessed and approved.

But this is a state election and Infrastructure Australia is required to assess only projects of national significance for which more than A$100 million in federal funding is sought. Fortunately, since 2015 Victoria has had its own independent advisory body: Infrastructure Victoria. It set out recommendations for the state in its 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy.

The Greens’ platform is most closely tied to these recommendations, both by number of projects and total size. While the Coalition has made the most pledges that do not align with Infrastructure Victoria’s strategy, Labor’s set of non-aligned projects is worth far more, owing mostly to the suburban rail loop.

The huge infrastructure promises this election may excite some voters, but for parties to pledge “visionary” projects outside of what Infrastructure Victoria has recommended smacks of hubris. By building their own glitzy mega-projects without doing due diligence, politicians risk choosing badly and failing to solve the underlying problems voters care about. Worse, the state has a finite budget, so worthwhile projects will have to be relegated to the bottom drawer to make way for the attention-grabbing goliaths.

Going into the polls, Victorians should have one thing on their transport infrastructure wish lists: projects with rigorous and independently assessed business cases. Anything less than that is like buying your kids shoddily manufactured, untested toys. And that may well end in tears once they’re unwrapped.


A note on sources and assumptions: Election commitments were sourced from official party media releases and websites. Only infrastructure promises worth more than A$50 million were considered. Given Labor is in government, only Labor promises pertaining to a “re-elected Andrews government” were included. Judgment had to be exercised to avoid double counting when existing promises were subsumed into later ones. Similarly, care was taken not to double-count projects announced as part of a larger program, such as individual level-crossing removals. Where a party released a range of cost estimates, the largest value was taken.The Conversation

Marion Terrill, Transport Program Director, Grattan Institute and James Ha, Graduate Associate, Grattan Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.